Gov. Nikki Haley’s take-no-prisoners assault on fellow Republican lawmakers makes us wonder if she no longer cares about moving bills through the Legislature. She seems more concerned with the political optics of castigating legislators for failing to meet her demands than with working with them to pass legislation that would benefit the state and its residents.
The effort to find a way to fix state roads is a good example. During last year’s race for governor, Haley refused to reveal a roads plan to voters during the campaign, saying she would present her proposal after she was re-elected.
Then, in her State of the State address, instead of a plan to find the money to fix our crumbling infrastructure, she presented what amounted to a tax cutting manifesto: Restructure the Department of Transportstion and raise the gas tax, but only if you first cut the state income tax by $1.8 billion over 10 years.
Failure to comply, she said, would bring a veto.
The House, astonishingly enough, managed to pass a roads bill that met Haley at least part way on all the components in her plan. And the bill passed by a veto-proof margin of 82-20.
Give state Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, one of the bill’s chief architects, considerable credit for fashioning legislation that could generate that much support.
Haley is not the only obstacle to passing a reasonable road plan. The Senate’s road bill is little more than a shell game that shifts money from one pot to another without saying where cuts must be made to find money for roads.
But Haley’s intransigence extends not only to the roads bill but also to a bond proposal to borrow money for crucial state needs and ethics reform legislation, another top priority this session. And her tactics include publicly calling out the lawmakers who disagree with her, and rebuking them on social media.
Haley recently told a group of realtors that they should “take a good shower” after leaving the Statehouse. Her comments later were posted by her office on YouTube.
This month, she took to the stage at the state GOP convention and praised 17 Republicans for backing her agenda 100 percent. Regarding the rest of the Legislature, she asked, “Where’s my army?”
This has left a number of legislative leaders puzzled and upset.
“It’s being a little bit disingenuous to say ‘Where’s my army?’ on ethics when we delivered exactly what she asked us to deliver,” said House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington.
Some Haley admirers might see her obstinacy as an act of principle. But governing requires compromise, and an unwillingness to bargain, principled or not, means that nothing gets done.
In refusing to compromise, openly criticizing those who oppose her and poisoning relations with members of her own party, Haley seems bent on modeling herself on her predecessor, Gov. Mark Sanford. He also took unyielding stands and managed to accomplish little during his two terms in office.
Charges that Haley is more interested in stoking her national political profile than in running the state seem more credible with each rancorous attack on the Legislature. She may believe her combativeness will play well with voters who see her as a potential GOP running mate in 2016.
But this scorched earth approach could be disastrous for the state. With only a few days left until the end of the session, little of the high-priority legislation has been passed..
And if lawmakers can’t produce a roads bill, an ethics reform bill, a domestic violence bill or other critical legislation, Haley will deserve considerable responsibility for that failure. And unless she changes her approach, she could have the unenviable task of trying to lead an army of deserters.
Gov. Nikki Haley’s confrontational manner might earn the admiration of some voters, but it has not helped produce meaningful legislation.